SALT LAKE CITY — The third case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has been confirmed in Utah, officials announced on Wednesday.
The man diagnosed is younger than 60, lives in Summit County, recently traveled to Austria and had close contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases there, Utah Department of Health officials said.
“Residents and visitors of Summit County can be assured that we’ve expected and prepared for COVID-19 in our community,” Dr. Rich Bullough, director of the Summit County Health Department, said in a news release. “The system of identifying, reporting, and now isolating the case has worked flawlessly.“
The man, who had symptoms, is recovering at home.
Fewer than five people were in close contact with the man and they have all been notified, according to Keegan McCaffrey, Utah Department of Health epidemiologist.
Those individuals are self-isolating and will be monitored by local health care officials for respiratory symptoms and tested for the virus if needed, McCaffrey said.
Health officials stressed on Wednesday that the new case went through the system smoothly and was addressed quickly since the patient self-identified his symptoms.
"So much went right in this case," Dr. Richard R. Orlandi said at a news conference.
The patient called his health care provider and clinicians prepared for his visit, where a sample was collected without the man entering the facility.
“The health care partners and the patient himself did everything correctly," McCaffrey said.
ARUP Laboratories tested the sample which is presumed positive until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can confirm the test further.
“The system worked just as we hoped it would. We continue to emphasize the importance of calling your provider first if you suspect you may have COVID-19,” said Dr. Thomas Miller, chief medical officer at University of Utah Health, in the release. “This enables us to help control the spread of this virus and better protect our patients, our staff and the community.”
Health officials assured Utahns that symptoms of the virus should not raise concern unless an individual has traveled recently to areas with COVID-19 outbreaks or has been in close contact with a confirmed case.
As of Wednesday, 136 tests for the novel virus have been done in the Utah Public Health system, McCaffrey said.
However, officials don’t yet know how many tests have been done by clinical labs, like in this case.
University of Utah health care systems aren't yet offering drive-through testing, but Orlandi said it might in the future.
“We are actually planning for that because we feel that these needs are going to continue to rise.”
Further details about the case, including a timeline of the patient’s travel, weren’t released for privacy reasons. However, McCaffrey did say less than one week passed between the man returning to Utah and getting diagnosed.
This is the first case in Utah where the patient is younger than 60.
“I think as we see what’s happening in the rest of the world and even in our country, it’s not surprising to see more cases,” Orlandi said. “I suspect that we will be continuing to see more cases in our community, in Utah, along the Wasatch Front and other areas as the weeks roll on.”
Orlandi reassured Utahns that while it’s understandable to become concerned with the increase in confirmed cases, there’s no reason to panic.
“Health care systems are prepared for this,” he said.
As for people who claim COVID-19 is no more of an issue than the flu, Orlandi said this simply isn’t true.
In a given population, a large number of people will have immunity to the flu, which slows its spread.
In terms of severity, Orlandi said COVID-19 is more serious than the flu.
“There is no immunity for coronavirus,” he said. “So it’s gonna spread more rapidly, that’s number one. Number two is, this is a more severe disease.”
- To help mitigate infectious transmission of COVID-19, health care officials advise anyone who thinks they might have the virus to first call their doctor before going to a hospital
- Wash hands thoroughly and often
- Stay home if you’re feeling sick
- Don’t touch your face
- Cough or sneeze in your elbow or a tissue
- You could be at risk of having COVID-19 if you’ve recently traveled to mainland China, South Korea or, to a lesser extent, Japan, Italy and Iran
- Infected patients typically have a fever, cough and shortness of breath